By Richard Crockett
Seamanship is a subject one has to learn through going to sea regularly in different conditions, all the while learning what your boat is capable of, how it reacts in different conditions, and so much more, which is why I have chosen this series of articles from the April 2006 issue of SAILING Magazine.
They were written by two sailors who have been out there and done it, and who can speak with authority on the subject.
I particularly liked the comments by Charles Reynolds which run like this: “And please don’t fall into the trap of believing that the piece of paper in your pocket that says you’re a Yachtmaster, or the other piece of paper in the Ship’s File that says your boat is cleared for Category X, Y, or Z, contributes one little iota to the Safety at Sea of you, your boat or your crew. That is solely in your hands as the skipper, so best we conduct ourselves to minimize the risks – nobody else will”.
Wise words indeed. As this subject is so vast, I have extracted the opening few paragraphs of all three articles as a teaser, and cannot suggest strongly enough that you read them, and more importantly inward digest what the authors have said.
“Practice…and Be Prepared” by Brian Hancock
Being caught in rough weather is never something sailors look for, but it’s one of the realities we face each time we head offshore. Strong winds and rough seas can whip up at short notice and the only thing worse than being caught by surprise is not knowing how to handle the conditions.
Put simply, being prepared and knowing your boat can save your life. With that in mind let’s explore some active and passive tactics you should consider the next time a rapidly falling barometer confronts you.
Before we look at some of the practical things you can do when the wind picks up, like heaving-to or running under bare poles, first understand that most tragedies occur because of fear. People do not think straight when they are scared and they get scared when confronted with unfamiliar circumstances. I have spoken with many sailors on this topic and most of them agree that sitting timidly waiting for perfect weather is not the right approach. You have to get some experience with strong winds to understand them, to respect them and to gain some confidence in your own ability.
So, rather than sit tied to the dock, you are encouraged to head out, deal with the weather, and the next time you find yourself in even worse conditions you will have some point of reference. It’s that point of reference that’s critical to making good decisions and it goes without saying that getting that reference as crew with an experienced skipper is the best possible situation.
“Taking A Small Boat to Sea” by Charles Reynolds
The more one sails, the lazier one gets!
We’re all guilty of it to a greater or lesser degree, and we all have in the back of our minds the earnest hope that nothing untoward will happen ‘this time’!
But in all honesty, a quick but comprehensive preparation schedule is worth its weight in gold, both in terms of the actual safety of boat and crew, and in peace of mind as we enjoy ourselves. And if that check routine becomes repetitive, then so much the better, since it is the experienced eye that spies the problem, almost instinctively after a while.
And please don’t fall into the trap of believing that the piece of paper in your pocket that says you’re a Yachtmaster, or the other piece of paper in the Ship’s File that says your boat is cleared for Category X, Y, or Z, contributes one little iota to the Safety at Sea of you, your boat or your crew. That is solely in your hands as the skipper, so best we conduct ourselves to minimize the risks – nobody else will.
“An Unsolicited Refresher Course” by Charles Reynolds
This summer has certainly seen the return to Cape waters of the traditional ‘South Easter’. And as a result, sailing over the holiday period can probably be best described as having been ‘character building’, particularly as we seem to have witnessed an unusually obstinate pattern of south-westerly swell at the same time.
One memorable sail this past December served also to prove the adage that one is never too old to learn, or at least to re-learn, a couple of fundamental rules of the sea.
READ THE 3 ARTICLES IN FULL HERE: 2006 04 – Sailing – pgs 12-21 LR